Sunday, November 29, 2015

COMMENTARY - My Thoughts on Saddleback

It has been an excruciating 4 months as we all await news of Saddleback's status for the 2015-16 season. Followers of this blog know that our family absolutely loves the mountain. One of the biggest reasons we love it is because we just feel at home there. The staff, the skiers and the mountain just fits our style and it is hard for us to imagine making any other mountain our home mountain.

Saddleback is not for everyone, but what makes Saddleback unique for the @MaineSkiFamily crew?

Snow - The snow is just better there. We always seem to have consistent snow surfaces to ski on.
Maybe it is because they don't dust and run and instead bury their snowmaking trails. Maybe there is less skier traffic (good for skiers that are on mountain - but bad for business sounds like). Whatever the reason the snow is just really, really good.

Gladed Terrain - When our family discovered the trees at Saddleback, a whole new mountain opened up for us. The ski treeing is just awesome. Skiing down the big canopy of pine trees on Intimidator and Dark Wizard is truly special. Casablanca is a gladed playground that you could spend all day in. Upper Nightmare is just the right spacing of trees and open areas. The glade cutters of Saddleback have done an outstanding job to make tree spacing... just right. If you don't ski the glades of Saddleback you are really missing out.

Convenience - No shuttle buses to get on. Drop your skis off at the lodge and close by parking. A comfortable (albeit crowded on weekends) lodge with an awesome fireplace. A smiling, friendly staff. Great homemade cookies and coffee at the snack bar. A fun pub upstairs with great food, drinks and a stellar view.

Awesome Learning Area - The area below the base lodge has a variety of green trails and its own lift for beginners to get started on. The lollipop races on Sunday for the little ones is always a blast for the kids.

Golden Smelt, Warden's Worry, Peachy's Peril, Black Beauty, Parmacheenee Bell, Jane Craig, Professor, Governor - Need I say more?

Not Pretentious - We can usually pick out the people skiing 'from away'. Their skis and clothes are just a bit newer and more stylish than most. They are usually bombing down the middle of the trail at 100 miles an hour and they might comment that there are too many ungroomed trails.

True Saddleback skiers might have a rip or two in their clothing. Duck tape would not be out of the question to cover a hole or hold something together. Many are dipping knees on their teles. Usually they are skiing the sides of the trails or hopping into the woods to find some untouched powder stashes. And frozen ice beards are worn with pride.

I could go on and on about why we love Saddleback but I think you get the drift. But what now as we await news on Saddleback's fate. I admit I have gone through a range of emotions. I have been angry at times with the ownership and management, sad that we might lose our mountain, and hopeful that something is going to work out for the best for all parties involved. As I swing through these emotions I do keep coming back to these main thoughts.

My problem is not that big - Compared for folks that are living in the area, rely on the tourism for their livelihood, own property in the area or work at the mountain they are the ones most impacted. I think the majority of the Saddleback ski population fits into the 'hope for the best' column. I am just looking for a place to ski and I do hope it will be Saddleback.

Pre-season pass holders are a bit stuck - Those that bought early are a bit stuck and I don't blame them for being angry. I just skied Sugarloaf this past weekend thinking it would sure of been nice to know if I need a season pass at the Loaf instead of buying $150 worth of lift tickets. The situation is worse for those with on-mountain property and seasonal rentals. But at this point I can only trust the ownership that there are valid reasons for not refunding pass holders yet, and they will make things right in the end.

Chris Farmer (GM of Saddleback) is doing everything he can - My read is that he is trying to help facilitate a sale while under direct orders not to say anything. That has to be an impossibly tough situation. While official communication from the mountain has been inconsistent due to a variety of factors, I am quite certain the midnight oil is burning in Chris' office.

I don't want to own a ski area! - We owe a big THANK YOU to the Berry's and all the investments they have made in the mountain. I really don't blame them if they want to get out. I think they have lost a lot of their family money in this venture. I certainly wish the exit could be smoother, but it is not my money at risk. While I have my opinions on how to make Saddleback work better financially, I would not want to be in the driver's seat risking my own capital. Loads of risk!

I am hopeful for the future - Even if the lifts don't spin this winter, I do think there is hope for the future. Saddleback has WAY too much going for it to sit dormant for long.

I could be wrong about all of this and I am sure there are different opinions out there. However, this is what keeps me going. As I have said many times before, I do hope something works out for the best for everyone involved, and we will hang on to the bitter end to see how this plays out.

Fingers crossed!!!


The @MaineSkiFamily Old Man.

What do you think? Post in the comments below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

2015-16 Season - First Ski Day at Sugarloaf

All hail snow making!
As we await news on the ownership status at our beloved Saddleback we got a few early-season runs in at Sugarloaf.

Sugarloaf had three main ways down the mountain. Hayburner and Kings that dumped out onto Candyside and Tote Road.

Kudos to Sugarloaf for putting some snow on the trails. They needed it because it was HOT. Temps in the mid-50's made for some spring like turns. The steeper sections of the trails were pretty fun and we found a few bumps to play around on. They had not groomed the snow making whales on Hayburner yet so there were mountains of snow to ski around.

Even though it felt like May it was still fun to get out on our skis again! We are off on the 2015-16 ski season!

Opening the season at Sugarloaf with some "spring like" turns

Monday, October 26, 2015

2015 Freeport Ski Boosters Ski Swap - November 14th!

  • There is already a great selection of items checked in for the sale.
  • Additional Consignment and donation check-in starts at 7:30am. Sale is at 10:30am.
  • Powder Dreams Ski Shop has also brought in a big selection of closeout inventory available for sale!
  • And we are raffling off Patriots Tickets!
Dooooooooooon't miss it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

2015 Maine Ski Swaps

Last updated November 19, 2015

Here is the 2015 edition of the @MaineSkiFamily ski swap guide. Over the past four years, I have
posted dates, times and locations of Maine based ski swaps and I am doing the same for 2015. It is by far the most popular pages on my blog so I am happy to do it again this year.

The Ski Swap Line - A sign of winter to come!
To get an idea of when the ski swaps happened last year you can review the 2014 swap page. I expect the schedule to largely be the same but I am sure there will be some differences. As I confirm the 2015 ski swaps, I will post them below.

If you are new to ski swaps, you can read my post on Ski Swap Strategies.

Happy Swapping!


1st - via the OffUGo blog - Quoggy Jo Ski Club Ski & Winter Sports Sale, Presque Isle. 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Presque Isle Rec. Center. Consignments accepted from 9:00 a.m.-Noon. Area ski shops will be on hand with new and used gear. Contact Gene Cronin (207-540-1496) or FMI.

7th - Farmington Ski Club swap and sale November 7th 8:00am - 2:00pm at Mt. Blue High School. Click here FMI.

7th - All Speed Cyclery and Snow in Portland has a swap Nov 7th. Seller proceeds can either be check or store credit. Sales starts 10am. Click here FMI.

8th - Brunswick Park and Recreation 48th Annual Ski Sale will be at Brunswick Landing from 1pm - 4pm. Click here FMI.

14th - Freeport Schools Ski Boosters Winter Sports Equipment Swap and Sale is November 14th at the Freeport High School cafeteria. See this post FMI.

14thvia the OffUGo blog -  Ski Swap and Sale, Mars Hill. Consignment intake: 8:30-10:30 a.m. Sale: 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Contact Ryan Guerrette (207-425-6711) or FMI

15th - The 52nd annual Auburn Ski Association Ski Swap will be held on Sunday, November 15 from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Auburn Middle School on Falcon Drive in Auburn. Check out their website for more info.

15th - Gorham Bike and Ski in Portland has a used ski sale Sunday, November 15th 10:00am - 1:00pm. Click here FMI.

21st - Pinnacle Ski Club in Pittsfield has a ski swap annually the third Saturday in November from 9am–4pm Drop off items on the Friday before from 6pm–9pm. Keep an eye on their website for more info.

21st - Via, the Yarmouth Ski Boosters will have their annual swap from 9am - 12pm Saturday, November 21st at Yarmouth Elementary School. Here is a link the swap flyer.

21st & 22nd - According to the Bangor Daily News the Camden Snow Bowl has a ski swap over the weekend at Camden Hills Regional High School. Keep an eye on this website for more info.

21st & 22nd - via the OffUGo blogLonesome Pine Trails Ski Swap and Sale, Fort Kent. Ski sale registration: Saturday, 8:00 a.m.-Noon. Ski sale: Sunday, Noon-4:00 p.m. Discounted season passes available both days. Contact (207-834-5202) or visit FMI

28th - Downeast Ski Club ski sale is held annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Portland Expo. More info here.


5th - Via - Greely ski swap and sale 9am to 1pm Saturday, December 5th at Greely High School. More info here.

6th - Via - Falmouth ski swap Sunday, December 6th from 12pm to 3pm. More info here.

As I receive confirmation of other 2015 swaps I will be updating this blog post. Feel free to comment on the post if you know of other Maine based swaps that are happening and I will update the list.

Prior 2015 Swaps


10th - CVA up at Sugarloaf will hold its annual ski swap on the Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend (October 10th) from 10:00am to 2:30pm. Click here for more info.

17th - The Penobscot Valley Ski Club is holding a Ski Swap / Sale at the Bangor Armory from 9AM - 4PM. Click here for more info.

30th - 31st - The Bethel Outing Club is having their 35th annual a ski swap  / sale over two days at the Gould Academy Field House. Click here for more info.

30th - via the Cape Elizabeth Ski Swap on Saturday, Oct. 30th at the Middle School 9:00am to 12:00pm. Click here for more info.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

August 2015 Trip to Baxter State Park - Russell Pond

Once again the @MaineSkiFamily crew took our annual trip to Baxter State Park - Russell Pond campground. As we did last year, we took along our friend Caiden and we had a most enjoyable
The crew ready for the hike in.

The hike into Russell starts at the Roaring Brook campground which is a popular starting point for hiking Katahdin. Our journey takes us 7 miles north into the central part of the park. It is the most remote campground in the park and is surrounded by views of the Kathadin range and very good trout fishing waters. We took the Russell Pond Trail on the way in which required a rock hop and a ford of the Wassataquoik stream but the stream levels were low so it was not too hard.

The campground was full of campers but most were there for hiking purposes. We were the only people fishing in the 4 days we were there. While August isn't "prime time" for fishing, we found
Native Russell Pond Brook Trout
the fishing to be extremely good this year. Each evening, the fish were rising on Russell and eagerly attacked our flies on the water. We found the most success with the Hornburg and White Wolf flies. We landed many trout in the 7" to 9" range, and each evening brought a fish or two 11"-12". Each evening we each landed 5 to 10 fish - mostly catch and release but we did keep a couple for the frying pan. These waters are designated heritage trout waters by the State of Maine and they have never been stocked with hatchery fish.

An 11" Brookie on a Fly Rod is a lot of fun!
These waters do allow bait fishing but this was the first year we all fly fished exclusively. All the boys did a very good job handling their fly rods and we had great success.

The other spot we fished was an area called Six Ponds. It is an additional 1.5 mile hike from the Russell Pond Campground. There are two canoes at Six Ponds and we spent 3 hours catching and releasing many fish. We found a spot where it was literally a fish every cast. Most of the fish are smaller in the 4" - 7" range but the non-stop action makes for a lot of fun.
The View of North Turner Mountain from Six Ponds

There are a lot of great side hikes easily reachable from Russell Pond. This year we took a hike to Wassataquoik Lake and Green Falls. Wassataquoik lake is a beautiful body of water. The water is crystal clear and as this green/blue hue that reminded me very much of the Caribbean. But make no mistake the water is much colder! The lake is surrounded by dramatic cliffs making for a stunning setting. There are canoes available to paddle this beautiful spot. There are fish in Wassataquoik including the elusive Blueback Trout but we decided to leave our fishing gear at camp and just enjoy the beauty.

Wassataquoik Lake Cliffs and Crystal Clear Waters

About mid-way down the lake there is a short hike to Green Falls. At this falls water cascades over green moss covered rocks. It is quite a sight nestled into the woods.

Green Falls at Wassataquoik Lake
We rented the bunkhouse at Russell Pond to enjoy good food, campfires, cribbage, stargazing and overall good times. It is a great way to unplug from the world a bit and enjoy some quality time together.

Thanks to Alec, Caiden and Isaac for supplying images and videos of the trip. Here is a video compilation of our journey. Be sure to check out all the fish at the bottom of Six Ponds at the 2:30 mark!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Saddleback in Trouble

Our favorite Ski Mountain - Saddleback Maine is in jeopardy of closing. The Berry's (the owners) have decided after many years of running the mountain at an operating loss they no longer can sustain this pace. They need help with financing a new lift to replace the Rangeley double, and that will hopefully pave the path forward to profitability. Without the lift, no ski season and time is running out to obtain financing.

I know everyone at Saddleback is trying their best. I hope it resolves successfully and we are skiing this winter.

You can read the press release from Saddleback here.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's Fishing Season in Maine - 2015 Edition

When the snow is not flying the @MaineSkiFamily crew likes to get out the fishing boat and spend some quality time on the waters of Maine. Maine offers some great fisheries for all different kind of species of fish. We primarily enjoy catching river smallmouth bass and taking an annual trip to Baxter State Park to catch native (never been stocked) brook trout. I will update this page from time to time with some fish pictures.

Late May Androscoggin River Smallmouth - Nice Fish ~16"!

Late May Androscoggin River Smallmouth Bass

A Baxter State Park native brook trout from August - 2015